Where The Gipper and Chesterton Meet

I’m in the throes of doing a close analysis of Reagan’s famous 1964 “Time for Choosing” speech for a lecture I’ll be giving next month on the 50th anniversary.  I rather like this line:

“We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one.”

Reminds me of an exchange between G.K. Chesterton (a stout man) and George Bernard Shaw (thin as a rail):

Chesterton: “My God, man, from the looks of you there’s a famine in the land.”

Shaw: “And from the looks of you, you caused it.”

New York Times exposes Obama’s shameless ISIS blame-shifting

Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt of the New York Times destroy President Obama’s attempt to shift blame to the intelligence community for his lack of focus on ISIS:

By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq.

But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. “Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn’t pay attention to it,” said a senior American intelligence official. “They were preoccupied with other crises,” the official added. “This just wasn’t a big priority.”

What “crises” were diverting the White House’s attention late last year from the rise of terrorist force more dangerous than al Qaeda? The botched Obamacare roll-out?

It may be true that the intelligence community failed to predict the precise speed of ISIS’s blitz through Iraq. But, as Baker and Schmitt affirm, the picture it painted for Obama was an “ominous” one. Certainly, that picture was inconsistent with Obama’s claim that ISIS is al Qaeda’s “jayvee.”

Obama offered this criminally glib characterization in response to a question by David Remnick that specifically mentioned ISIS’s taking of Fallujah. Obama was not concerned about ISIS’s success in Fallujah, writing it off as the product of that city’s traditional sectarianism.

But that’s not what our intelligence services were telling him:

On New Year’s Day, convoys of up to 100 trucks flying the black flag of Al Qaeda and armed with mounted heavy machine guns and antiaircraft guns stormed into Falluja and Ramadi as they sought to establish an Islamic caliphate stretching across national borders. Their victories sent a chill through the American military, which had fought some of its bloodiest battles in that part of Iraq. . . .

And yet American officials said there was no serious talk of intervening directly at the time. Since Falluja and Ramadi had long been hotbeds of Sunni extremist sentiment, American officials assumed the Islamic State could be checked there and eventually rolled back.

Intelligence agencies warned against such an assumption.

The facts, then, are clear. Our intelligence agencies warned Obama not to assume that ISIS could be halted in Fallujah and Ramadi. Obama not only ignored the warning; he ridiculed it, as his remarks to Remnick make clear.

And now, he is blaming his failure to act on false claims that he wasn’t sufficiently warned.

America has had its share of dishonest presidents. But I don’t think we’ve ever had one as shameless as Obama.

Are Democrats Poised for a Senate Comeback?

Republicans are optimistic about the Senate these days, on account of recent polls that show their candidates pulling ahead, or pulling even, in a number of battleground states. Oddsmakers are now saying there is a strong probability the GOP will re-take the Senate in November.

However, there is a catch: as usual, the Democrats’ fundraising this cycle has vastly outpaced the Republicans’. And the Democrats are focusing their resources where it counts, on the Senate. Echelon Insights, a reputable outfit headed by Kristen Anderson and Patrick Ruffini, has been tracking television advertising buys. This is how the reserved air time shapes up between now and November. Click to enlarge:

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Republicans are competitive except with regard to Senate races, where Democrats have reserved almost twice the air time as GOP candidates. Will the Dems’ advertising barrage tilt close races in their favor? Only time will tell. Some think that TV advertising is overrated, others say voters reach a saturation point and last-minute ads are ineffective. Let’s hope that is correct. In any event, if you live in a state with a competitive Senate race and if you watch sports between now and November–and who doesn’t, with the baseball postseason and the NFL in full swing?–brace yourself. You are about to be inundated with Democratic Party ads.

Where is liberalism going?

This past week the Heritage Foundation convened a panel of conservative intellectuals to discuss the future of liberalism in America. I became aware of the Heritage program through Andrew Evans’s Free Beacon article covering it, “Liberalism in America.” The Heritage Foundation promoted the event with this invitation:

Twenty-five years ago, marriage meant what it had always meant, Madonna was considered risqué, and liberals worried about mass immigration, threats to religious liberty and the vulgarity of pop music. The times, they have a-changed. And they will continue to change as the Left presses on.

Where will liberalism be 25 years from now? What new causes will it champion? Will it have exhausted itself or will it continue to grow bolder in its demands? Can conservatives today in any way try to preempt the future agenda of liberalism?

Join us as our three panelists discuss the main currents of modern liberalism and try to anticipate where the Left is going.

Moderated by Federalist publisher Ben Domenech, the panel included Heritage’s David Azerrad, the Claremont Institute’s Bill Voegeli and National Review’s Kevin Williamson. The program was excellent. Our own Paul Mirengoff attended and asked a good question in the question-and-answer part of the program. Williamson’s presentation (highlighted by Evans) in particular struck a chord that is consonant with themes we have pursued this year. The video is below. I think that many readers will find it of interest.

Somalis say: Show us the money

We’ve got a problem in the Twin Cities that is based in our large and still growing population of Somali immigrants. Somalis have been immigrating to Minnesota for more than twenty years now. They have taken advantage of all the services that our state and local institutions offer. They have been welcomed with open arms, in Minnesota’s characteristic style.

Yet Minnesota’s Somali community — a/k/a “Minnesotans” — is the most fertile ground in the United States for the recruitment of terrorists by foreign terrorist organizations in Africa and the Middle East. We are concerned that they may choose to return “home” to Minnesota if they don’t get killed first. What is to be done?

Aside from monitoring imams and mosques, the first thought that occurs to me is freezing Somali immigration to the United States. I think this would give us the opportunity to get a handle on the problem while assuring that we don’t needlessly aggravate it.

Star Tribune reporter Chao Xiong covered the recent Minneapolis forum devoted to the problem confronting us in Minnesota. Ibrahim Hirsi covered it for the online news outlet MinnPost. The stories offer complementary accounts of the forum.

Reading Xiong’s and Hirsi’s stories, I get the sense that Somalis are assimilating to the local culture. Some translation is required, and mine may be imperfect. Hirsi quotes two local Somalis, each of whom makes his own pitch for what I understand to be a “show me the money” approach:

Putting a stop to the romanticization of extremist ideologies is more than investigating and prosecuting folks, said Mohamud Noor, a community activist and Minneapolis school board member. Radicalization will always be alive so long as the immigrant youngsters remain marginalized, without access to adequate education, employment and other opportunities, he added.

“When so many young people are looking for opportunities and they’re denied…because of their color, my dear friends, there is no simple solution,” Noor said. “When we’re trying to find simple solutions to a complex situation, we’re not going anywhere.”

Activist Ilhan Omar noted the community has been combating radicalization for many years, urging officials to invest in anti-recruitment youth programs. “And it needs to happen now,” Omar said. “The longer we wait, the longer our silence will be used as a recruitment tool. The time is now. Let’s act. Let’s put our kids first.”

Minnesota United States Attorney Andrew Luger provided a preview of the government’s thinking in the Age of Obama. I think he announced that the money is on the way:

The Department of Justice has recently announced that the Twin Cities area is participating in a yearlong pilot program aimed to engage at-risk communities to combat recruitment of Muslim youth. Community members hope this pilot program will enable the youth to create some opportunities and integrate them into the society.

Luger said he plans to discussion solutions for the radicalization and recruitment problems with leaders in Washington next month. “The Somali community in Minneapolis and St. Paul will benefit greatly from the additional resources we expect to receive as part of the pilot program,” Luger in a statement.

“Our Somali friends deserve to prosper in Minnesota in peace and security, and this program seeks to make that happen, and create a blueprint for the country for how to prevent the radicalization of vulnerable youth.”

Luger also appeared in part to reassure the Somalis that law enforcement efforts are benign. As quoted by Xiong, he also offered a “root cause” approach to the underlying problem based on the usual liberal theory of causality involving “discrimination.” If this reflects the current thinking of law enforcement, and not just the pap that must be served up for public consumption in the Age of Obama, we are screwed.

Xiong quotes neighborhood community center director Aman Dube. I don’t know if Dube is Somali, but he too has assimilated to the local culture. According to Dube, more afternoon programs are the ticket. “If we have…programs like that, no one will choose negativity,” Dube said. Right.

Xiong’s article is a little superficial, a little indirect and even incomprehensible. In his account, “activist” Ilhan Omar (as both Hirsi and Xiong describe him) is the voice of sober reality. Let’s take a look at the whole thing:

Dozens of Somali community members concerned about the recruitment of local youth into extremist groups called for more resources to help combat the radicalization of their children.

More than 60 people at the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis on Sunday heard Somali leaders, an imam and U.S. Attorney Andy Luger call for more expanded efforts to support Somali youth, more mentorship of youth by elders and increased partnerships between the community and law enforcement.

Minneapolis resident Ali Hayle said previous pledges by authorities to work with the community left him jaded when they didn’t seem to follow through with action. But Hayle said he left Sunday’s town hall meeting optimistic about the community’s future and the speakers’ sincerity.

“Hopefully, things will change,” Hayle said.

Several Minnesota youths recruited to fight in Somalia or Syria have died on those battlefields.

Hayle and other speakers said a key to fighting the recruitment of youth into terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaida-linked group, is creating an environment in Minnesota where Somalis and other immigrants feel welcomed and have opportunities to succeed.

Amano Dube, director of the Brian Coyle Community Center, said investing in education and after school programs will give youth the skills and opportunities to pursue other avenues in life.

“If we have … programs like that, no one will choose negativity,” Dube said.

Activist Ilhan Omar said that conversations about fighting radicalism often focus on younger children, when most of the approximately 20 people recruited out of Minnesota were older than 22 at the time. Omar said many youths become vulnerable during high school when they face an identity crisis about what it means to be Somali, Muslim and an American.

She urged community members to take it upon themselves to combat radicalization.

“We shouldn’t just think about financial resources,” Omar said, “but about how each of us can be a resource for that young person who is struggling.”

Luger told the crowd that quashing the discrimination Somalis face here will help address the “root cause” of radicalization.

He said some Somalis have expressed concern about treatment at the airport, prompting a meeting with community members and the Transportation Security Administration at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that Luger called one step in many toward ending the recruitment of Somali youth.

Luger pledged to take community members with him to a meeting at the White House in October addressing the recruitment of Somali youth.

“I want you to know this is not an attack on the Somali community,” Luger said of the fight against radicalization. “This is something we’re doing together.”

Luger’s ascription of alleged Somali mistreatment by TSA at the airport as a cause of the problem beggars belief. Somalis are ubiquitous in service positions at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, including TSA. Indeed, one of them was recruited by ISIS. They heighten the usual sense of the theatrical absurdity that is attached to airport security.

In short, I take it from the two articles devoted to the forum that we don’t have a clue and that nothing useful is going to be done.

Some Liberals To Applaud on Climate

In my Forbes.com column today, “Climate Change Jumps the Shark,” I take aim at the old “no-enemies-on-the-left” mentality that will extend a free pass to the lunatic rantings of Naomi Klein and “Little Bobby” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. So when a liberal does step up and object strongly to this kind of infantile leftism, it is worth noting and praising.

No surprise that it comes from our center-left friends at the Breakthrough Institute, which is making a serious project of what it calls “Eco-modernism,” comprising an embrace of technology, progress, and economic growth—things most liberals used to stand for as a matter of course until they adopted a limits-to-growth mentality back in the 1970s. While shedding none of their left-leaning egalitarian and environmentalist sympathies, the “Breakthroughvians” (as their growing circle of reformist liberals is starting to be called) see the world without illusions.

Will Boisvert, who writes for Dissent, the New York Observer, and other left-leaning publications, gives Klein a good smacking in a new Breakthrough essay “Why Progressives Should Reject Naomi Klein’s Pastoral Fantasy—and Embrace Our High Energy Planet.” It is a long piece, and the whole thing is worth a read, but here are a few short highlights:

Her trademark blend of light wonkery, sardonic prose, sharp-eyed reportage and fist-waving militance appeals to every left constituency from academics to Occupiers. Most important, her penchant for tying absolutely anything she can think of into her thesis du jour feels tailor-made for climate change, the most omnipresent and multifaceted of subjects.

Her new manifesto, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate is a wide-ranging synthesis of Left-green doctrine on the entwinement of ecology and economy. . .

Unfortunately, the result is a garbled mess stumbling endlessly over its own contradictions. Her understanding of the technical aspects of energy policy — indispensable for any serious discussion of sustainability — is weak and biased, marked by a myopic boosterism of renewables and an unthinking rejection of nuclear power and other low-carbon energy sources. Having declared climate change an “existential crisis for the human species,” she rules out some of the most effective means of dealing with it. . .

[H]er uninformed, dogmatic treatment of the substance of that problem, so typical of the Left’s approach, generates only confusion and misdirection. To make a useful contribution to changing everything, the Left could begin by changing itself. It could start by redoing its risk assessments and rethinking its phobic hostility to nuclear power. It could abandon the infatuation with populist insurrection and advance a serious politics of systematic state action. It could stop glamorizing austerity under the guise of spiritual authenticity and put development prominently on its environmental agenda. It could accept that industry and technology do indeed distance us from nature — and in doing so can protect nature from human extractions. And it could realize that, as obnoxious as capitalism can be, scapegoating it won’t spare us the hard thinking and hard trade-offs that a sustainable future requires.

Hear, hear.

In Iowa Senate debate, Braley’s neighbor’s chickens come home to roost

Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley held their first debate last night. Immigration was front-and-center, which is probably not a bad thing for Ernst.

Braley tried, however, to spin the issue into an advertisement for his “bipartisanship.” He invited Ernst to “join John McCain and Marco Rubio in calling on Speaker Boehner to bring this immigration bill to the floor of the House so we can pass it.” Ernst declined the invitation.

She stated that Congress should “secure the border [and] enforce the laws on the books,” and then move to “modernize” the legal immigration system. Ernst added that she doesn’t support “amnesty” and that she opposes President Obama taking executive action to “grant amnesty.”

Braley countered that “Sen. Rubio and Sen. McCain did not vote for amnesty” by supporting the Senate immigration bill. He hopes to gain mileage by invoking the names of the two Republican Senators.

But to my knowledge, McCain has never been particularly popular in Iowa, and Rubio says he no longer wants the House to pass his immigration bill. His current position appears to be about the same as Ernst’s.

Braley is wise, nonetheless, to attempt to appear “bipartisan.” But Ernst had a good counter. She ridiculed her opponent’s claim to be a “bridge builder” by bringing up a feud Braley had with a neighbor over chickens:

Congressman, you threatened to sue a neighbor over chickens that came onto their property. You’re talking about bipartisanship; how do we expect as Iowans to believe that you will work across the aisle when you can’t walk across your yard?

I wonder whether, at the end of the day, Braley is nice enough to win a statewide race in a state as friendly as Iowa.

The Des Moines Register’s account of the debate is here.

To support Joni Ernst in this crucial race, please go here.